By Claire Zillman
December 8, 2016

As Brits debated Brexit this past spring, Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote a letter to media watchdog Ofcom lamenting that the conversation included mainly male voices. “Half the population of this country are women and our membership of the EU is important to women’s lives,” she said at the time. “Yet men are, as usual, pushing women out.”

Fast forward six months. Brexit is still being debated, and men are still dominating the issue. The Independent kept a tally and found that during Monday’s arguments in the Supreme Court case determining how the U.K.’s split from the European Union must be carried out, men spoke for over four hours, while women talked for merely a minute.

When a reporter for the paper tweeted out the statistic, some commenters replied that it was irrelevant. What difference does the gender of a lawyer make in a case where the Constitution is the deciding factor?

Even if female attorneys made the same points as men, optics matter. And it’s clear that some members of the public need to become better acquainted with women in positions of power. Case in point: one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, investment manager Gina Miller, has exercised her legal right to challenge the government’s authority to trigger Brexit. In return, she’s received death and rape threats. Miller told the BBC that her role in the case had made her “apparently the most-hated woman in Britain.”

Surely, some of that backlash is politically-charged rather than motivated by gender, but it’s hard to imagine a man facing that same kind of intimidation.



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